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Prof Breda Smyth says we are "in the eye of a respiratory virus storm". Leah Farrell via Rolling News

CMO: 120 cases of Covid-19 diagnosed in hospitals overnight amid 'concerning' viral surge

Prof Breda Smyth urged people with flu-like symptoms to stay at home in the run-up to Christmas.

LAST UPDATE | 21 Dec 2022

THE CIRCULATION OF Covid-19 and influenza has given rise to “significant morbidity”, the Chief Medical Officer has said, as she urged the public to stay at home if they develop Covid-19 or flu-like symptoms in the run-up to Christmas Day.

Speaking to RTÉ’s News at One, Prof Breda Smyth said that 120 cases of Covid-19 were diagnosed in hospitals around the country overnight.

There are 19 cases in ICU, she said, up “significantly” from this time seven days ago. 

Prof Smith also said that there has been a 75% increase in flu cases and a 35% increase in hospitalisations, with the number of children aged 5-14 in hospital with the virus up 65%.

She described increase in of cases as “concerning”.

“I suppose to describe it we are in the eye of a respiratory virus storm as we enter the Christmas period,” she said.

The CMO also said that there has been a fall-off in the uptake of boosters, as she urged those who are eligible for vaccination to come forward.

“We do know that in our winter booster programme for Covid, it’s the adapted vaccine that has part of the Wuhan strain but also the Omicron strain, so it’s very effective against the Omicron virus,” she said.

“So I would urge anyone who hasn’t already, to received their booster, that is eligible for a booster, that they would come forward.”

She said that while vaccines and antiviral treatments have been successful in protecting the vulnerable from infection, she urged the public to do everything in their power to reduce the risk of transmission and illness.

“The ways that we can do that is by staying home if we have symptoms.

“That may mean making a difficult decision If you become ill on Christmas Eve and you are due to make a visit the following day.

“I think it is important to think of the vulnerable people that you may be visiting and to make that key decision that may help to keep everybody safe,” she added.

Prof Smyth also echoed calls from the HSE’s Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry, urging commuters to wear masks on public transport.

Speaking on the same station’s breakfast programme, Morning Ireland, Dr Henry urged the public to wear masks in “any setting where there is any degree of congestion and where they are in the company of an older person”.

There has been a “significant and alarming rise” in cases and hospitalisations of Covid-19 and influenza in Ireland, he added.

He said that Covid cases are up 75% in one week, while hospitalisations are up 90% since the beginning of December, describing this increase as a “significant and alarming rise”.

Strep A

Dr Henry also confirmed that four people have died in the State this year as a result of the infection, with two of them being children.

He urged caution but said that fatalities from this infection “are extremely rare”.

“Death is exceptionally rare in children and for the great majority of children who have sore throats and fevers, they can be managed safely at home,” Dr Henry said.

Dr Henry also dismissed speculation that there is a shortage of antibiotics for those who require them.

He said: “We have enough antibiotics to deal with people who require antibiotics, based on the solid clinical indications that general practitioners will be very familiar with out there in the community.”

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre has also written to schools to offer advice to staff on what to do if they suspect one of their pupils is ill with the infection.

Group A streptococcus (GAS) is a common bacteria.

Many people carry it in their throats and on their skin and it doesn’t always result in illness.

However, GAS does cause a number of infections, some mild and some more serious.

The most serious infection caused by GAS occurs when it becomes invasive (invasive Group A Strep). That is when the bacteria gets into parts of the body where it is not normally found, such as the lungs or bloodstream. This is called invasive Group A Strep (iGAS) and in rare cases it can be fatal.

You can read more about Strep A here.

Additional reporting from Garreth MacNamee. 

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